Anti-anxiety medication prescriptions have spiked 34% during the coronavirus pandemic

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The coronavirus is taking a toll on mental health.

The number of prescriptions for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications filled per week increased 21% between Feb. 16 and March 15, 2020, according to a new report by Express Scripts, a Cigna-owned CI, +5.43% pharmacy benefit manager. The study analyzed prescription claims filled between Jan. 19 and March 15 of this year among a sample of more than 31.5 million commercially-insured individuals, and found that claims peaked during the week ending March 15, when the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Anti-anxiety drugs saw the biggest spike, jumping 34.1%, which was more than double the number of insomnia aids (14.8%), and almost twice as high as antidepressants (18.6%).

Related:Suffering insomnia over the coronavirus? Having strange dreams? Here’s what to do

Express Scripts noted that this is a sharp u-turn from the 12.1% decline in the use of anti-anxiety meds like Pfizer’s PFE, -0.26% Xanax and Roche’s RHHBY, 2.87% Valium that it recorded between 2015 and 2019, as well as the 11.3% decline in the use of anti-insomnia meds during that same window.

“This analysis, showing that many Americans are turning to medications for relief, demonstrates the serious impact COVID-19 may be having on our nation’s mental health,” the report concluded.

It’s the latest in a series of recent warnings about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public’s psychological health.

More than 4 in 10 Americans are feeling lonelier now than ever before as a result of social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a survey of 1,055 people commissioned by the University of Phoenix published this week. More than one in five people (22%) also say their sleep quality has suffered since the coronavirus spread. Recent findings from the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index also revealed that some 35% of Americans said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic, and 43% said their emotional well-being had also gotten worse.

Read more:‘We can get through this’: How to manage your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

That’s not surprising considering more than 20 million Americans are out of work as non-essential businesses have temporarily closed, and COVID-19 cases have surpassed more than 2 million worldwide, with more than 137,000 deaths and climbing (although more than 525,000 have also recovered.)

America was already in the grip of a loneliness epidemic and a mental health crisis even before the COVID-19 outbreak hit. Almost one in five U.S. adults reported experiencing a mental health condition in 2018, and the teen suicide rate climbed more than 50% over the past decade. Mental health conditions cost the health care system more than $200 billion a year, making it one of the country’s most expensive health conditions. They also lead to more than $193 billion in lost earnings per year.

Stay up to date with MarketWatch’s coronavirus coverage here. 

Originally Published on MarketWatch

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